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The Life-giving Force of “Ren” and Dai Zhen’s Conception of Desire

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Abstract

This article examines the vitalistic meaning of “ren” (仁) with its focus of discussion on the 18th century Confucian thinker Dai Zhen’s (戴震 1724–1777) reading of the concept. I argue that Dai Zhen, in both continuation with and departure from the Neo-Confucian thought on the vitalism of ren provides a unique interpretation of this key Confucian notion in terms of the creative creativity of shengsheng (生生) and thereby throws a fresh light on the age-old subject of human desire.

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